CHARLES, Donald Holden Passed away on July 23, 2006 in a jeep accident on the Charles family ranch outside Cazadero. Don lived life to the fullest, never avoiding the necessary and always game for the new and exciting. A math whiz, Don graduated from Montgomery High School and received undergraduate and masters engineering degrees from U.C. Berkeley. Early in his career, he traveled the world with Bechtel Corporation and other large engineering companies, working in Saudi Arabia, Brunei, Papua New Guinea, and France. He managed projects ranging from hydro-electric dams in the rain forest to the construction of Fantasyland in EuroDisney near Paris. In 1990, he returned to Sonoma County where he and his wife Sheilah had two children, Vaughn and Livia. Don started his own business, DH Charles Engineering, which grew over the next fourteen years to become a nationally recognized civil and structural engineering firm, with clients throughout the United States and Canada. The company, with a branch in southern California, has worked on projects such as the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and on all the bridges in the Bay Area. Despite his success in business, Don was never a workaholic. He spent his weekends and holidays in play-mode, at which he excelled. His deep joy for living, mingled with a charming blend of intelligence, generosity, and curiosity - always layered with a sense of humor- brought laughter and ease to those around him. Never able to resist the sly aside or opportunity for goofiness, Don managed to translate his humor to France, where many of the Gallic persuasion were won over by his fearless (and very funny) interpretation of their language. Don brought his inimitable brand of zaniness and kindness to his role as father, giving Vaughn and Livia a dad who was full of fun and surprises, game for anything, and who expressed his endless love for them openly and without reserve. He and the children had just returned from a week's vacation in Kauai, where, according to Livia and Vaughn, an outrageous time had been had by all, jumping from waterfalls, scarfing shaved ice (two a day!), and generally breaking all the rules. In an emergency, Don never hesitated--always the first to help those in need, whether it be a friend on hard times or a stranger in peril. Energetic and youthful, he had a lifelong interest in history. He loved hunting, playing poker, and lolling on the beach. In recent years he had become an accomlished ballroom dancer. But much more important than what he did is who he was: a soul that brought care and concern to every interaction with other people. He was ever quick with a joke, but behind the roguish smile his outpouring of kindness and attention was always evident. Don made friends everywhere he went. He died while driving his jeep in the place he loved most on the earth - may we all be so fortunate. The silver-tongued man-child has left us. He will be sorely missed by his children, Vaughn and Livia; his father Leonard; his sister Judy; his brothers David and Leonard; his former wife Sheilah; his step-mother Cynthia;AAa and his many aunts, uncles, cousins, and other members of the extended Charles family; step-siblings Chet, Chris and Leticia; business partner Jasper Calcara; friends and employees. All who knew and cared for Don are invited to a memorial celebration of his life at the Mary Agatha Furth Center, 8400 Old Redwood Hwy. (behind Our Lady of Guadalupe Church), on Thursday, August 3, at 3:00 p.m. Please come and share your memories of this very special person. Contributions may be made to the charity of your choice. Arrangements made by DANIELS CHAPEL OF THE ROSES (707) 525-3730.
Published in Press Democrat on Aug. 1, 2006.